No, I don’t mean the winter coat your dog can grow all by himself– I mean the manmade creations that come in every color of the rainbow and can be found adorning pooches belonging to fashionistas around the world. Pet owners often buy coats for their dogs for reasons of appearance alone, but some dogs really do need a little more than their own fur to stay warm in winter climates.
Small dogs with thin coats and little body fat should generally wear a coat on walks if the outdoor temperature will be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Chihuahuas, Italian Greyhounds, and Basenjis are among the breeds that fall into this group. Some individuals may stay active enough not to need a coat when outdoors for a short period of time, but if they’re going out for more than a quick potty break, even very active pups should dress warmly. Never leave a small, thin-coated dog outdoors for a long time in cold temperatures, whether she’s wearing a coat or not!
Certain other breeds don’t need to wear a coat as often, but still should use one if temperatures are below freezing and the dog will be outdoors for longer than a few minutes. Small to medium sized dogs with short coats of a moderate thickness are in this batch, like Jack Russell Terriers, Greyhounds, Schnauzers, Boxers, and Australian Cattle Dogs. Again, don’t leave dogs out in extremely cold temperatures for long, even with coats.
Hairless dogs should never go out for more than a few minutes without some sort of skin protection, whether it’s summer or winter. In the winter, breeds like the Chinese Crested (Hairless) or the Xoloitzcuintli should wear warm coats and avoid being exposed to cold for a long period of time. In the summer, they ought to don sunscreen and a white t-shirt to reflect harmful UV rays.
If your dog has a thick, multi-layered coat of fur, putting a manmade jacket on her could actually impair her ability to stay warm. Dogs like Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, and even Welsh Corgis keep warm in part because their layered coats keep warm air in once their body heat has warmed it. Huskies also have a unique coat type that helps to keep them toasty even in extreme temperatures.
Putting a coat on a breed with a multi-layered, thick coat can squish the fur down and stop it from service its purpose in keeping the dog warm. Plus, the manmade coat won’t absorb the sun’s rays and use them for warmth as well as the dog’s natural fur. If temperatures are so extreme you’re loath to walk even a very furry dog without a coat, just stay in for the day, and keep your dog in, too.